My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean is a signed print by internationally acclaimed British artist, David Hockney. Issued in a limited edition of 50 in 1961, it offers a fantastical view of Hockney’s first visit to the United States in July of the same year.
My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean is a 1961 etching by venerated British artist, David Hockney. Its title references the Scottish folk song of the same name, the lyrics of which (‘My bonnie lies over the ocean / my bonnie lies over the sea’) appear in graffiti-like text on the surface of the image. On the 9th July 1961 – his 24th birthday – Hockney boarded a flight to New York in what was the beginning of a long love affair with the North American continent, figured here by the iconic ‘star-spangled banner’ – or national flag of the United States of America. The importance of this date for Hockney is marked onto the print. Indeed, references to the United States pepper the piece; coded initials reminiscent of American poet Walt Whitman (‘Dh’) are inscribed onto the body of a small figure, perched on a skyscraper; another cartoon-like character bears the face of 18th-century American ‘Founding Father’ and first president of the United States, George Washington. To the right of the etching, a metaphoric figuration of the United Kingdom is marked out by the presence of a Union flag – an iconic national symbol co-opted by the ‘Swinging London Of the ‘60s and transformed into a counter-cultural symbol reminiscent of American Pop Art. Between these two ‘poles’, a rough and viscerally etched Atlantic Sea charts the inter-continental coordinates of Hockney’s journey, as well as the cultural differences between the two anglophone nations. This print foretells Hockney’s move, three years later, to Santa Monica, California. An unorthodox decision in the eyes of many European artists, themselves attracted by the glamour of a nascent, avant-garde Pop Art scene active in New York, Hockney likened the move to that of Van Gogh to Arles, southern France, in 1888.